From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Highlights:
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s series of melodramas on disaffected outsiders in modern-day Germany saw perfection in such films as “The Merchant of Four Seasons” (1972), “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972), “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974) and “Fox and His Friends” (1975), the latter film newly released on DVD and Blu-ray by Criterion. A lottery win leads not to financial and emotional freedom but to social captivity in this wildly cynical classic about love and exploitation. Casting himself against type, the director plays a suggestible working-class innocent who lets himself be taken advantage of by his bourgeois new boyfriend (Peter Chatel) and his circle of materialistic friends, leading to the kind of resonant misery that only Fassbinder could create. “Fox and His Friends” is unsparing social commentary, an amusingly pitiless and groundbreaking if controversial depiction of a gay community in 1970s West Germany. New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and supervised by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
The surprise of the week (actually, this month) has to be “Train to Busan”
(2016 — South Korea), a Zombie horror-thriller — a kind of “World War Z” meets “Snowpiercer” — that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide zombie viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to the Safe Zone … which may or may not still be there. A businessman and his estranged daughter hop a train to Busan, unawares that a research plant — funded by the businessman’s financial firm — has unleashed a virus that is quickly turning South Korea into a land of zombies. When the infection spreads to the speeding train, a group of passengers — lead by the businessman and a blue-collar worker — must fight their way through the zombie hordes to the safety of the front cars of the train — all the while hoping that Busan has been safely cordoned off from the infected countryside. It’s a thrilling, entertaining take on the zombie genre, with fleshed out characters, social commentary, and terrific action sequences. Forget all you knew about slow-moving zombies — these flesh eaters, like the ones in “World War Z,” are pretty darn fast and hard to stop. Biggest grossing South Korean film of all time. Stars Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok, Choi Woo-sik and An So-hee. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from (Well Go USA). Check out the trailer:
Also from Criterion this week comes “Something Wild” (1961), a complex exploration of the physical and emotional effects of trauma, staring Carroll Baker — in a layered performance — as a college student who attempts suicide after a brutal sexual assault but is stopped by a mechanic played by Ralph Meeker — whose kindness, however, soon takes an unsettling turn. Startlingly modern in its frankness and psychological realism, the film represents one of the purest on-screen expressions of the sensibility of the intimate community of artists around New York’s Actors Studio, which transformed American cinema in the mid-20th century. With astonishing location and claustrophobic interior photography by Eugene Schüfftan, an opening-title sequence by the inimitable Saul Bass, and a rhythmic score by Aaron Copland, this film by Jack Garfein is a masterwork of independent cinema. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with a new, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Jack Garfein, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
From TV to DVD:
“I Love Lucy: Superstar Special #2” (1955) is a 45-minute disc that includes both colorized and original black-and-white versions of both “Lucy Visits Grauman’s” and “Lucy and John Wayne,” which are the first two episodes of the show’s 5th season. Here the episodes are stitched together to tell a continuous story. “Lucy Visits Grauman’s” finds Lucy and the Mertzes visiting Hollywood’s famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where they stumble upon a loose cement slab containing John Wayne’s footprints. Lucy decides to take the slab as a souvenir. In “Lucy and John Wayne,” Lucy scrambles to replace the stolen footprints and Ricky tries to help by calling John Wayne, but as usual, the seemingly simple task of replicating the footprints becomes a comedy of errors. From CBS/Paramount … “The Love Boat Season Three: Volumes One and Two” (1979-80) arrives as two four-disc sets ($19.96 each) with all 25 episodes (including three double-length episodes) of this guilty pleasure vessel. Join Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), Doc (Bernie Kopell), Gopher (Fred Grandy), Issac the Bartender (Ted Lange), Julie your Cruise Director (Lauren Tewes) and a shipload of guest stars, including Don Knotts, Frank Sinatra Jr., Ginger Rogers, Milton Berle, Alan Hale Jr., Sonny Bono, Charo, Don Adams, Donny Osmond, Loni Anderson and more. From CBS/Paramount … “Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Seventh & Final Season” (2016) is a four-disc set with all 13 episodes. Based on the best-selling crime thriller books by Tess Gerritsen, “Rizzoli & Isles” focuses on tough-as-nails Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), who has an uncompromisingly brash and beautiful bull-in-a-china-shop approach to both cases and life, and the brilliant medical examiner from a privileged background, Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), who may be the best-dressed science nerd in New England. Together, they are close friends and complete opposites who solve some of Boston’s most notorious crimes. From Warner.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
In “The Whole Truth” (2016), starring Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Gabriel Basso and Jim Belushi, defense attorney Richard Ramsey (Reeves) takes on a personal case when he swears to his widowed friend, Loretta Lassiter (Zellweger), that he will keep her son Mike (Basso) out of prison. Charged with murdering his father, Mike initially confesses to the crime. But as the trial proceeds, chilling evidence about the kind of man that Boone Lassiter (Belushi) really was comes to light. While Ramsay uses the evidence to get his client acquitted, his new colleague Janelle (Mbatha-Raw) tries to dig deeper — and begins to realize that the whole truth is something she alone can uncover. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate … In “Come and Find Me” (2016), starring Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Zachary Knighton and Garret Dillahunt, David and Claire’s idyllic relationship comes to an abrupt and mysterious end after Claire disappears without a trace. Devastated but incapable of letting go, David follows her trail down a frantic and increasingly dangerous path. Shocked at discovering that Claire was living a double life, he’s forced to risk everything if he ever wants to see her again. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate … “Bubba the Redneck Werewolf” (2014) is based on the cult classic comic book series that first appeared in 1996. Cracker County is under attack and lovesick dog catcher Bubba Blanche has been transformed into a ferocious, cigar smoking Werewolf in order to save the day. But first he’s got to conquer a beer or two. And maybe a plate of chicken wings. Bubba the Redneck Werewolf (Fred Lass) and a host of riotous hillbillies fight to save their town of Broken Taint from the forces of evil. Bubba (Chris Stephens) is a nightshift dogcatcher and local laughingstock who longs to win back the heart of his high school sweetheart, Bobbie Jo (Malone Thomas). But when the Devil (Bubba comic-creator Mitch Hyman) comes down to Florida, Bubba signs a deal to make himself a bad-ass, only to wake up the next morning permanently transformed into the most monstrous Werewolf. In order to save his town and be the hero he longs to be, Bubba will have to navigate a country crock of malicious bikers, cryptic hobos, gaseous gypsies, and even a zombie hoard — all leading up to a climactic duel with the dark prince himself. Stars Fred Lass, Malone Thomas, Mitch Hyman, Chris Stephens. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment … The animated “Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania” (2016), with the voices of Jon Heder, Diedrich Bader, Jeremy Shada and WWE Superstars John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, Paige and Mr. McMahon, follows surfer penguin Cody Maverick as his childhood dream comes true when The Hang 5, a world famous surf crew known for their extreme stunts and personalities, visits his island. Cody joins the crew on a journey to a mysterious spot to surf the biggest waves in the world. From Sony … “Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050” (2016) is an action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original “Death Race 2000.” It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy. Co-stars Burt Grinstead, Marci Miller, Folake Olowofoyeku, Anessa Ramsey, Yancy Butler, Charlie Farrell. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Universal.
On the Indie Front:
A “babymoon” is defined as a relaxing vacation taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born. In “The Babymooners”(2016), starring Shaina Feinberg, Chris Manley, Jeff Seal, Chris Roberti, unfortunately, nothing is relaxing for Shaina, a late blooming New Yorker whose biggest fear is that parenthood means the end of creativity. Two weeks before the birth of her first child, Shaina sits down to create a video letter for her unborn son. Clearly influenced by old Woody Allen films, her video letter becomes a series of vignettes that include her newly sober husband (Manley), her goofy Upper West Side parents, an adorable Shih Tzu mix, an overly anxious shrink and her own views on daytime television. From Candy Factory Films.
For the Family:
From celebrated filmmaker and animator Rémi Chayé (“The Secret of Kells”) comes “Long Way North” (2016 — France), a spirited and inspiring story of a young heroine persevering through a physical and emotional journey to find her explorer grandfather and his lost ship, the Davai, set in the late 19th century Saint Petersburg. Sacha, a young girl from the Russian aristocracy, dreams of the Great North and anguishes over the fate of her grandfather, Oloukine, a renowned scientist and Arctic explorer who has yet to return from his latest expedition to conquer the North Pole. Sacha has always been fascinated by the adventurous life of her grandfather and has the same calling as Oloukine to be an explorer. But Sacha’s parents, who already made arrangements for her marriage, strongly disapprove of the idea but, defying her destiny, Sacha flees her home and launches an adventure-filled quest toward the Great North in search of Oloukine and his ship. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory Kids.
Director Alex Gibney’s “Zero Days” (2015) is a documentary thriller about warfare in a world without rules — the world of cyberwar. The film tells the story of Stuxnet, self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. It’s the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.